Pastoral Series

Worship Matters: a Second Mountain

   What does Worship ask of us? I have for a long time appreciated David Brooks. I’ve gotten to have dinner with him a couple of times, and have found him to be a genuine, humble, thoughtful, brilliant person. In his latest book, The Second Mountain, he says amazing stuff about people, like so many of us, who’ve heard that that self-interest is the way.

But then, something happens – and “suddenly they are not interested in what other people tell them to want. They want to want the things that are truly worth wanting. They elevate their desires. The world tells them to be a good consumer, but they want to be the one consumed—by a moral cause. The world tells them to want independence, but they want interdependence—to be enmeshed in a web of warm relationships. The world tells them to want individual freedom, but they want intimacy, responsibility, and commitment. The world wants them to climb the ladder and pursue success, but they want to be a person for others. The magazines on the magazine rack want them to ask ‘What can I do to make myself happy?’ but they glimpse something bigger than personal happiness. The people who have been made larger by suffering are brave enough to let parts of their old self die. Down in the valley, their motivations changed. They’ve gone from self-centered to other-centered.”

Fascinating to me, the way this is so in sync with the Christian way – how Jesus speaks of losing your life to gain it. “Good character is a by-product of giving yourself away. You love things that are worthy of love. You surrender to a community or cause, make promises to other people, build a thick jungle of loving attachments, lose yourself in the daily act of serving others as they lose themselves in the daily acts of serving you. Character is a good thing to have, and there’s a lot to be learned on the road to character. But there’s a better thing to have—moral joy. And that serenity arrives as you come closer to embodying perfect love.”

I am intrigued by this “moral joy” – and wonder if this isn’t the highest purpose of worship. The more we worship, the more we know serenity, the more we are invited to give ourselves away, the more we make and keep promises, the more we are reminded about our deep craving for interdependence, intimacy, that we exist for others (especially for God) – and the virtues of sacrifice. Worship really does matter.

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